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Vice President and Chief Scientific Officer Dr. Philip Dormitzer

Pfizer chief scientific officer optimistic that the vaccine protects against variants

Monday, March 1, 2021

Pfizer Vice President and Chief Scientific Officer of Viral Vaccines Dr. Philip Dormitzer spoke today at OSU’s inaugural INTERACT Eminent Speaker Series, expressing optimism that the vaccine protects against the variants from the U.K., South Africa and Brazil.

Viruses change over time, he said, and researchers have found that the sera elicited by the Pfizer vaccine neutralize all three emergent strains. His team studied 46,331 participants at 153 clinics around the world with good diversity for race, ethnicity, age and underlying medical conditions. They are optimistic that the vaccine will protect against variants but more clinical data are needed to be sure.

He said the future with COVID-19 could take one of several paths. Immunity could be durable and broad, with the virus becoming like a seasonal coronavirus — “an annoyance and not that big of a deal,” Dormitzer said — where if a vaccine is needed, it would be a pediatric vaccine. Other possibilities are that the population would need a vaccine booster similar to that given for pneumonia’s emerging variants. Or, it could be a constantly changing virus like the flu that requires repeated immunizations. 

“If I were to guess, I would think it is more likely to not be quite like the flu,” Dormitzer said. “Coronaviruses are different. They have a much lower rate of change. I am surprised by how much change we have seen. I wonder how much is really being driven by immunity and how much is being driven by this virus still adapting to growth in humans. The key is we are going to be prepared for whatever it is we have to do.”

Looking ahead, Dormitzer said that Pfizer and partner BioNTech will continue to ramp up production, develop new dosage formulation, explore the use of boosters for durability, study potential use in younger populations and pregnant women and prepare for emerging SARS-CoV2 strains. To date, 14 million people in the U.S. have received at least one or two doses of the vaccine.

Dormitzer leads Pfizer’s viral vaccines research and development programs, including a prefusion F-based RSV vaccine, a cytomegalovirus vaccine and RNA-based COVID-19 and influenza vaccine collaborations with BioNTech. 

In December 2020, Oklahoma State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine launched the Institute for Translational and Emerging Research in Advanced Comparative Therapy (INTERACT) to promote One Health research for humans and animals. INTERACT is a collaboration between OSU colleges and other stakeholders around the country who are engaged in cutting-edge clinical research utilizing devices, therapeutics and diagnostic platforms.

Watch the presentation below:

MEDIA CONTACT: Derinda Blakeney, APR | OSU College of Veterinary Medicine | 405-744-6740 | derinda@okstate.edu

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